Friday, October 22, 2010

Gender Issues and the New Constitution of Kenya

Gender concerns in Kenya formed part of the underlying force behind the clamor for constitutional amendments that eventually led to the process of developing another Constitution for the country. Over the past three decades, gender concerns have been gaining prominence with attention being drawn to the plight of the poor and disenfranchised women and the unfinished gender agenda (World Bank 2001).
In most developing countries, including Kenya, systemic female disadvantages have been more widespread than male disadvantages, that notwithstanding, gender norms and stereotypes can be said to affect both men and women impacting on the well-being of both genders. In Kenya, the achievement of a new Constitution is a huge milestone since it offers Kenyans a framework of governance capable of effectively managing the problems that have undermined good governance, sustainable development and protection of human rights (Kenya National Commission on Human Rights 2010).
The new supreme law of the land has set an important precedence of addressing the phenomenon of gender inequality by availing resources and equal opportunities for men and women. For instance, the new Constitution increases women’s representation in decision making organs at the local, community and national levels. It also advances principles of equality and non-discrimination especially for women who experience discrimination for many years.
The new Constitution of Kenya prohibits all forms of discrimination including violence against women and any customary law that perpetuates such acts. It also gives women the legitimacy as citizens and the ability to pass that citizenship to their foreign spouses or children born outside the country. It has also encouraged equal parental responsibility.
As the government spearheads the implementation process and creation of corresponding policies to fully operationalize the constitution, it becomes important to keep bearing in mind the constraints hindering this goal.
Finally, the constitutional implementation process should not fail to recognize any constraint(s), especially the gender-differentiated ones, during the design and implementation of the policies. Ignoring any constraints will compromise the effectiveness of the policies, both from equity and efficiency perspectives (World Bank 2001).

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